Posts Tagged ‘ Amargosa hotel ’

Death (Valley) on the Day of my Birth

Friday, January 4th, 2013

I turned forty-whexianoehna (that’s a giant sneeze sound for “something”) over the holiday. Phil and I have a tradition of going to a museum on my birthday. One year, to gain perspective on how little I mattered in the scheme of the universe, we went to the Natural History Museum. We were living in New York and it was a time that I was questioning my purpose in life (pre-kids, clearly).  Just walking through all those exhibits documenting civilizations past really did help pound home the idea that I’m just a blip. We all are. Depressing? Maybe. Or just a good way to stop taking yourself so seriously.

This year we were immensely enjoying our first “staycation.” We kept toying with the idea of going to San Diego for a night with the kids, or to Palm Desert. We couldn’t make a decision/commitment, so we just left everything loose (which resulted in the best week we’ve had in years).

Phil kept asking what I wanted to do for my birthday, but I remained noncommittal. I was having too much fun just “winging” it. On my birthday it was raining. Here’s how the day shaped up:

Me: “Hmm…what should we do today? It’s raining.”

Phil: “It’s not raining in Death Valley.”

An hour later we had packed up the kids and were heading off on a 5-hour road trip to one of the most extreme places on earth. We had booked the last hotel room at basically the only hotel in Death Valley: Furnace Creek.  (They have a sister property down the road as well).

In case you didn’t know, Death Valley holds the record for the hottest place on earth (134-degrees back in July 1913). This time of year though, it’s chilly. As in 54-degrees or so. The week between Christmas and New Year’s is also their busiest. But by busy, that only means one hotel in a huge swath of desert.  The hotel isn’t even that big. We didn’t fight RV’s for road space or gobs of tourists at the 3 restaurants. It was the perfect time to go.

A friend of mine asked, “How did you entertain kids in that place?”

For us, it was easy. We told Fia we were going on an adventure. We’ve done it before to other stranger places, like the Saltan Sea. Someday when she’s a teenager, she’ll probably roll her eyes and beg to stay home. But at this age, she is totally game and gets as excited as we do (though she doesn’t know over what). And Emmett, well, he is the easiest, most chill baby in the world. So we were golden.

 

On the way up we stopped in two ghost towns and explored.

By the time we arrived at the hotel it was dark and their restaurant was sold out. So we just plopped down at a table near the lobby-bar and enjoyed a lovely birthday dinner. With wine of course. (I know this is starting to sound like a book report, but I am a bit rusty from taking so much time off.)

The next morning we began our adventure. We started off at the Sand Dunes (where George Lucas shot some of the scenes from Star Wars…remember when C3PO and R2D2 crash in the escape pod?). We said to Fia, “Look at this!! This is like the biggest sandbox ever!”

 She screamed in delight and took off running. We played hide and seek. We played chase. Emmett giggled on my back as I ran after her and Phil. It was a blast.

 

An hour later, we headed to the lowest point in the U.S.: Badwater Basin. It’s basically a lake of hardened salt, 282 feet below sea level. There, we played catch with rocks of salt. We even licked some. We ran all over, feeling it crunch under our feet.

From there, we pulled over spontaneously at what’s called Devil’s Cornfield. It was an even more extreme feel of crunching land. I honestly could have stayed in that field and crunched all day.

On the way back home, we stopped at the famous Amargosa Opera House in the ghost town of Amargosa. By famous I mean you probably have never heard of it. Fia and Emmett were both sleeping, so Phil and I took turns getting out of the car and checking things out.

We got home at 9 pm, thus concluding our 2-day, 1-night, whirlwind tour of Death Valley. And another year where I got tremendous perspective on the day of my birth: I am the luckiest woman in the world.

More Pics:

Above: Em standing on sand. Below: Fia being tossed (I was more gentle than it looks) down a hill of sand. By choice.

 

 

 

 

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Why This Was The Best Xmas Ever

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

Revelation: Christmas is best with no company!

Revelation: I’m a homebody.

Revelation: I generally don’t like people staying with us…especially over Christmas.

If you didn’t notice, I totally checked out. Why? Because I was having the most enjoyable time with Phil, Emmett and Fia. I just decided to disappear. Poof.

This year I wasn’t pregnant, we didn’t have a newborn, we weren’t traveling, and we didn’t invite anyone to visit. And guess what? It was, hands-down, the most enjoyable Christmas to date. It may even trump our Christmas adventure pre-kids to Mali, West Africa in 2007.

Yes, the extreme adventure-travel girl, people-person and people-pleaser in me just took a massive break. It was our first “staycation” and I gotta say, it was amazing.

Phil and I both realized what it means to have our own family, our own tradition, and to frankly be selfish about it.

It’s not that we don’t love our families, but just having an entire week where each day we’d wake up with the kids and say, “What should we do today?” was simply blissful. To not be mopping and sweeping up after company or planning meals or dealing with drama–that inevitably comes with family–was relaxing beyond belief.

We went on glorious hikes, we took family naps, we went to the beach and the desert. We saw friends. We watched movies.  I now understand why the word  ”family tradition” was invented.  We now have ours.

Some highlights:

Em on his new trike. His feet don’t quite reach, but he loves it anyway! A good gift to grow into.

Fia’s grandpa made her a beautiful doll bed. Santa brought her favorite friend, Olivia. Between the two gifts, she has been entertaining herself for days. I love to watch.

Olivia needs lots and lots and lots of naps. Even though Fia doesn’t want to take them herself. (BTW–this is the only picture where I think she actually looks like me. Fia, not the pig.)

A-Wayne in a Manger. (get it? The cat? He’s in the manger?)

Christmas dinner, and drinking wine from my friend Kerstin Walz, who launched her own wine label this year, Stark Wine. It is delicious. I sent it out as Xmas presents to those in my life who appreciate good wine.

Having dinner with good friend Jenn Lee. Phil is there too, but he is taking the picture. Obviously. Goal: try not to over-explain in the New Year. Like I just did.

Nothing better on a Christmas day hike than your baby falling asleep on your back. Delicious.

This may be one of my favorite pictures of Fia to date. Notice the rodent hat and the sparkly shoes. Phil graduated from Madison, so naturally he was hoping for a Badgers win in the Rose Bowl. Didn’t happen, but at least he had his best cheerleader with him.

Okay, so below is when things got really adventurous. Mid-week we decided on a whim to go to Death Valley. That blog is coming tomorrow, so check back. Here’s a sneak peek:

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